How Long Till My Soul Gets it Right?: 100 Doorways on the Journey to Happiness


Through uplifting and engaging real-life stories, psychotherapists Robert and Jane Alter reveal how to unlock your own incredible power and use it to achieve your most important personal goals:

  • Overcoming painful experiences from the past, to help you thrive now and in the future
  • Creating more fulfilling and passionate bonds with your ...
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Through uplifting and engaging real-life stories, psychotherapists Robert and Jane Alter reveal how to unlock your own incredible power and use it to achieve your most important personal goals:

  • Overcoming painful experiences from the past, to help you thrive now and in the future
  • Creating more fulfilling and passionate bonds with your spouse or partner
  • Developing a deep and empowering sense of self-confidence
  • Raising your children with strong minds and hearts
  • Conquering the patterns of behaviour that hold you back from the life of your dreams
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
With a distinctive blend of classic Freudian psychotherapy, Zen Buddhism, Jewish mysticism and meditation techniques, the Alters inject a strong dose of spiritualism into garden-variety talk therapy, in order to try "to help people become happier in their lives by helping them figure out how life works." One of the Alters' tenets is that we must attune ourselves to the "voice of God within us [which] has the answers to all our questions and the solutions to all our problems." Although they can clarify complex issues with clever metaphors, the authors just as often skim over their topics, slip into abstractions and gender stereotypes (i.e., that men are the only ones to fall into sexual addiction) and, most egregiously, omit any mention of recent discoveries in the study of brain chemistry and psychopharmacology. Practicing psychotherapists for 20 years, they hold steadfastly to the therapeutic model that entails years on the couch delving into childhood experiences. Some readers may find comfort in the Alters' resonant descriptions of troubling issues, although they may not find much assistance in actually resolving them. In fact, the Alters' tales of clients who have been in therapy for years and still grapple blindly with the same issues may dissuade some readers from undertaking the treatment. With a disclaimer regarding the reality of their examples, the Alters offer an interesting collection of "imagined" stories based on composite characters from their experiences in private practice, but little substance for readers to take away. (Mar.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060987497
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/28/2001
  • Edition description: 1 PBK ED
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 5.32 (w) x 8.01 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

A psychotherapist in private practice with individuals and couples since 1978, Robert Alter graduated from Cornell University and earned his M.A. from Brandeis University. A former contributing editor for Mothering magazine, he has taught literature and writing at Brandeis and Wheelock College.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Past to Present

We are all the products of thousands of years of failed parenting...because the human species has not yet evolved to the point that it knows how to raise its young without injury.
--Harville Hendrix, the audiotape Safety

Mama always said you gotta put the past behind you before you can move on.
--from the movie Forrest Gump

Receive the child in reverence. Educate the child in love. Let the child go forth in freedom.
--Rudolf Steiner

At the same time that we are moving forward in our journey toward our inner Self, we have to move backward to our childhood. We must face what happened in those early years that was so disappointing, hurtful, terrifying, or infuriating that we had to leave behind major parts of our emotional selves in order to deal with it all. All of it that you can remember you have to face, and the parts that you can't quite remember, you have to infer and intuit and face. You can do all that in therapy because you have a guide accompanying you on the trip who has himself been back there, in his own childhood, and knows the neighborhood. He might not know your specific neighborhood -- the exact events that happened to you back then -- but he knows the general size and significance of these events, and their emotional, behavioral, and spiritual consequences in your adulthood. He knows all the hiding places we crouched in when we were children, and the ones we retreat to now -- because he himself has hidden in most of them, and come out of some of them. "Healing occurs when a person returns to the pain ofthe past and finds she is not alone this time." In therapy, we return to the pain of the past accompanied by the therapist, who looks at the facts with us, and helps us finally come to terms with them.

There's not only a psychological but a spiritual reason for this trip: We can't slip through the finer and finer gossamer filaments on the way to the inner Self unless we're very light in our being, so we can't be carrying the dark, dense weight of the past with us. If there's any part of us that's still there, in our childhood, we can't be fully here, in our adulthood, getting our souls right, ultimately trying to achieve Self-realization.

By whatever means, including therapy, we try to finish our childhood and get to adulthood.

And as the bombshells of my daily fears explode, I try to trace them to my youth.
--Indigo Girls, "Galileo"

Donald, a forty-year-old electrical engineer, was in his third week of therapy. He suffered from anxious depression, "a slight drinking problem," and regular outbursts of tongue-lashing rage at his wife, his two children, and the subordinates in his office. His wife had encouraged him to seek therapy with me (she had been in therapy with me two years earlier), which he was willing to do, but with one condition.

"I don't want to go into any of that psychological crap," he said. "I'm willing to look at myself and the way I am, but I don't want to go back forty years and dig up my whole childhood and blame my parents for everything under the sun. I'm not into that 'inner child' garbage that my wife keeps talking about."

I admired his spirit. I thought it was great that Donald didn't want to avoid responsibility for how he is in the present by, as he put it, "whining" about what happened in his past. However, none of us can grow psychologically or spiritually unless we spend some time in the past, figuring out what happened then that keeps influencing how we are today. That time in our lives is like an electrical generating station that keeps feeding tremendous power into the repetitive and destructive patterns of thought, feeling, and behavior in our present lives. That's why those patterns seem to have lives of their own quite independent of our best intentions, our intelligence, and sometimes even our conscience.

We have to revisit those generating stations, to go back to our past and know it for what it was, good or bad or wonderful or horrible or a mix of it all. We need to expose our circuits and see the tangle of wires inside, trace them back to the generating stations, make sense of it all, and reconnect what has come loose. Often we have to clip some of the wires leading from our past to our present, bearing messages that don't serve us well. "I'm not the kind of person who can do that"..."It's just my nature and I can't change it"..."I'll always be stupid or ridiculous or unlovable" -- and bearing with those messages, those powerful, recurrent, negative emotions that control and torture us from morning to night.

I think I spend half my time in therapy trying to convince otherwise intelligent people that the treatment they received in their childhood was not natural, or right, or acceptable, but traumatic and wrong and unacceptable. People tell me stories about their childhood as if they were reporting what they had for lunch, while I sit in a silent apoplexy of outrage at the many misdemeanors and downright crimes against innocent children I'm hearing about.

When my clients don't remember what it was like in their childhood, I say, "Trust your symptoms, and let your symptoms lead you back to your past. Based on the symptoms you're reporting to me, you're probably going to find some childhood experiences there that were pretty damn bad."

"It can't be as bad as all that," they say.

"Actually, it's probably worse," I say.

I know that sounds pessimistic, but I'm being up front about how easily we all minimize or rationalize away the most painful incidents of the past...
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